PHOTOS: Flooded Fields Bring Back Shorebirds

PHOTOS: Flooded Fields Bring Back Rare Birds
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Skagit Valley, Washington--Among fertile farms once rich with wetlands, conservationists are recruiting farmers to temporarily flood their fields (above, a flooded Skagit Valley farm in August 2007) in an effort to bring back habitat for migratory shorebirds. (Read the full story.)

The idea first sounded odd to Dave Hedlin, whose farmlands are nestled among inlets, bays, and estuaries in the shadow of the snowcapped Mount Baker volcano. "Most of us have spent our entire lifetimes trying to keep water off the land," he said.

But he found out that working these so-called walking wetlands into his farm's regular crop rotation can increase levels of crop-boosting nitrogen and drown disease-causing bacteria.

Preliminary results indicate a partial success for the Nature Conservancy's Farming for Wildlife program: Fifteen shorebird species visited the flooded fields in 2007, at the start of the three-year experiment, and all three farmers involved, including Hedlin, saw a rise in nitrogen in their fields. Previously, only about three species had been seen feeding in the farmlands, conservationists say.

--John Roach
— Photograph courtesy Kirsten Morse, the Nature Conservancy
 
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